Chapter 15

Ætherglow #292

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2254-11-07 13:49:19

You stare up at the ceiling, lost in the geometric pattern of its carpeting. You feel her, poking and probing around in the corners of your mind--Counselor Xi, responsible for the mental stability of five hundred technopath candidates.

It’s your regular weekly session with her, ordered by Admin Vanitas herself, seeking answers. Last month, somehow the Sector NULL æthercult’s apparent leader Unas was able to speak to you and appear before your eyes, all from inside a faraday cage, with no physical breach of its barrier detected. Yet, even though your own mind was the most likely source of the problem, the experienced technopath psychologist has failed to find any trace.

As she scans deep inside your system--the machine and the flesh--you feel pain. You struggle to maintain your focus.

“Eyes on the pattern, Aydan,” she says, sitting in a chair across from the couch you’re laying on. “Suppress the pain. Remember your training. Focus on the shapes, the angles. Count the corners. Trace the paths. Invert the pattern in your mind’s eye. Stim with it. I need you as Autistic as possible right now.”

You do as she says, losing yourself deeper and deeper in the fractal triangle pattern. Its colors start to shift as your eyes adjust from staring at it so long. You shift the colors yourself--color perception is a simple trick of the brain’s sensory processor. Don’t think about motion, time, purpose--detach yourself.

The pain is too great.

“Aydan, suppress, keep your sync rate up,” Xi says.

It’s too late. The surrounding world crashes back into view. You turn your head spinward and see the counselor’s frustrated stim, clenching her fingers tight. The short Earthsider tradgirl from Qianshi, with her shoulder-length black hair swaying as she leans to the side.

“Sorry...” you say.

“No trace from that scan either. It would have been too easy if something was simply embedded in your analytical mind, or your sensory or semantic memory. I need a deeper look into your emotions, it’s an ideal place to hide this kind of program. But Aydan, you are blocking me.”

“Sorry! I’m not doing it on purpose.”

“I know, it’s clearly on a subconscious level. So you may need conscious action to let me in, some guided thoughts to get me there,” Xi says.

“What are you trying to get into? It would help if you told me what you’re doing in my head,” you say.

“I told you, it’s easier for both of us if you don’t know the specifics,” she says. “But I am getting anomalous data from your emotional processing, particularly something around the emotions of grief and love. I need you to help guide me there, and suppress your anxiety about what I’m doing.”

You couldn’t possibly let her in there, you think.

“And I remind you, again, that I am contractually bound to patient confidentiality, and that I am probably the academy’s most vetted and trusted staff member besides the Admins themselves,” she says.

“Okay, maybe we can do...”

1) “...the blocked area around ‘grief.’”: 4 (44.44%)
2) “...the blocked area around ‘love.’”: 3 (33.33%)
3) “Actually, I’m too mentally exhausted to continue today.”: 2 (22.22%)
Expired 2 months ago (2024-03-06 06:28:15)